In September I attended the launch of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Magna Carta Partnerships programme, a new fund that seeks to promote legal expertise and the rule of law around the world. FCO Minister Baroness Anelay was joined by current and former diplomats for a panel discussion on how good governance and robust legal institutions can strengthen the rule of law, and in so doing, also protect human rights.
The British Government is regularly criticised for its apparent support for human rights abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. So during the Q&A session I was able to ask the Minister and other panellists why our Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and officials overseas do not make more public statements on behalf of political prisoners like Raif Badawi.
You can listen to the exchange via the player below and on SoundCloud. Or you can just read the transcript. Continue reading Why doesn’t the FCO speak out on behalf of Raif Badawi? Minister and officials respond
On Wednesday I was invited onto the BBC World Service programme ‘BBC World Have Your Say’ to discuss Raif Badawi’s PEN Pinter Prize and the issues experienced by bloggers in Saudi Arabia. Also on the show were Evelyne Abitbol, Chief Execuitve of the Free Raif Badawi Foundation and Saudi Arabian journalists Essam Al Ghalib, Eman Al Nafjan of Saudi Woman, and Abeer Mishkas.
You can hear our segment via the player below or on SoundCloud. The entire programme can be heard on the BBC website or BBC iPlayer. Continue reading Debating Saudi ‘Red Lines’ on the BBC
Bloody hell. A serving general has threatened mutiny if a Corbyn-led Labour government attempts to scrap Trident or otherwise downgrade our military capabilities. The Independent reports that the general said that the military would attempt to stop such policies being enacted, “by fair means or foul”. Continue reading Ok, so this right here is why we need strong human rights laws
Free speech includes the right to not say – or sing – something that you do not believe. Jeremy Corbyn exercised that right during the Battle of Britain memorial service earlier this week, when he stood in silence during the national anthem.
Patriotism and monarchism are not mutually exclusive. Patriotism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive either. Declining to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ does not make one a traitor or unpatriotic. Instead, it signals that you think our country would be better if it didn’t have God (an Established Church) and it didn’t have a Queen (the monarchy). These are entirely reasonable beliefs. Continue reading Free speech and the national anthem
in the end, I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership election. I was just too worried about the issue of electability, and therefore the need to show economic competence to the wider electorate. I did not think that potential was something Corbyn adequately conveyed during the campaign. If Labour lose the 2020 election I think the Conservative programme will become too entrenched with deeply unpleasant and inequitable consequences for our society.
So instead, I chose Yvette Cooper. Friends and family have derided her for being boring and equally un-Prime Ministerial, but I disagreed. Her speech on immigration late in the campaign was passionate, and when I saw her speak in person (a couple of years ago) I was mightily impressed. I think she could have found a way to restore Labour’s economic credibility. I think she was – and is – electable.
I won’t deny that I was also keen to see a woman elected Labour leader, although I don’t think identity politics should trump policy.
None of that came to pass, however, and Corbyn was the overwhelming preference of party members and supporters. And yesterday a friend sends me this message:
Btw – am seriously thinking about joining the Labour Party now that Khan is mayoral candidate and Corbyn is at the helm. Are you not excited?
Yes, I am. Continue reading Corbyn
With Jeremy Corbyn ahead in the polls and expected to win the Labour Leadership contest, there is plenty of discussion about how he would behave as leader and (possibly) Prime Minister. For example, The Mail on Sunday has published a frankly hilarious piece of mock futurism by David Thomas: ‘The 1000 days that destroyed Britain‘ warns of blanket re-nationalisations, the abolition of the Bank of England, and—worst of all—a gender balanced Cabinet.
But surely the best indicator of how Corbyn would govern is to look to the record of another member of the ‘Awkward Squad’ who won power: Ken Livingstone.
Continue reading How would Corbyn govern?
The thing that irritates me about the Labour Leadership campaign is the Manichean approach adopted by everyone. We hear talk of schisms and splits and the “soul of the party” as if Corbyn is presenting such a different vision for the party that the Venn Diagramme of values and polices has no overlap between him and the other candidates.
This cannot, in reality, be true. But what troubles me about the overall tone of the debate is that it has made me doubt whether the losing faction, whichever it may be, will work with the person who wins. Continue reading Could Corbynism compromise with Blairism?
On Monday, Labour Party members received an e-mail from Liz Kendall in their inboxes: an open letter.
You probably think I’m writing to ask you for your vote in the upcoming election for party leader.
And I am.
But what really matters for our country and our party is another election – the one we’ll fight together in 2020.
By then, our country will have suffered under five more years of the Tories.
&cetera. I was a little underwhelmed by the text, to be honest. The values she lays out do not seem to delineate Kendall from other candidates, or even the other parties. “End inequalities” and “eliminate low pay” are policies that Labour surely shares with the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SNP. Conservative Party Leadership Candidates probably would not put these issues at the top of an appeal to their members, but it would be difficult to find a Tory MP that disagrees with either. However, “we need a more caring society”, “We must share power with people” and “We need a future of hope for all our young people” are phrases that would make their way onto a Conservative membership e-mail. Only once in the e-mail does Kendall explain a policy difference between her and anyone else (on inheritance tax). So the aspirations and goals, worthy though they are, seem rote when stated by themselves. Continue reading Liz Kendall as a Quick Case Study on Political Persuasion in the Digital Age
How irritating. I had drafted a short, blistering blog about how the NHS, the sacred cow of British politics, is a massive socialist project. “If the NHS did not exist”, I would have said, “none of the Labour leadership candidates but Jeremy Corbyn would dare suggest we invent it”… And when he did, everyone (other candidates, the Tories, the media and yes, much of the British public) would have accused him of being a bonkers socialist, happy to squander billions of pounds of taxpayers money. Continue reading The Pragmatic Idealism of Team Corbyn
More banter from the political past today as John Prescott criticised Tony Blair’s “get a transplant” jibe.
Meanwhile, Margaret Beckett has somehow branded herself a ‘moron’ because she was one of Jeremy Corbyn’s sponsors, nominating-but-not supporting him so the Labour Party could have a debate.
Well, a debate is being had. A wider range of policies are being debated and the other candidates have found they are unable to triangulate their way to a victory on points. The contest is going to be far more interesting than any that has gone before and—here’s a radical thought—it could be that this moment of public disunity and ill-tempered argument could end up strengthening the eventual winner. Survival Of The Fittest, Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, &cetera.
Continue reading What if it’s all just cyclical?